Matthew A. Reidenbach

Associate Professor · Ph.D. Stanford University, 2004

Contact Information

My primary area of research is environmental fluid dynamics, with an emphasis on physical-biological interactions in coastal environments. Current research activities include the effects of flow and turbulence on nutrient exchange in coral reefs, sediment transport in estuaries, chemical dispersion in the coastal ocean, and wave dynamics. My research also investigates coastal resilience. I explore how ecosystems such as coral reefs, seagrasses and oyster beds, both alter and respond to wave and storm impacts along coastlines. This has important implications to economic losses and the vulnerability of coastal communities to storms, flooding, and sea level rise.

I also hold a courtesy faculty appointment within the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. (Curriculum Vitae)

Recent Publications


Chemical and flow sensing by aquatic organisms
We study how benthic animals like crayfish and lobsters detect and locate odor sources utilizing information they obtain from turbulent flow patterns and odor sampling by their olfactory appendages. This has important implications in the design of man-made sensors that can accurately track and identify sources of chemicals and pollutants in the natural environment.

Filter feeding and metabolism of intertidal oysters
Oysters are voracious filter feeders, removing not only phytoplankton from the water but also suspended sediment. This increases water clarity, and the bio-deposition of sediments enhances carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus flux to the ocean floor. We are currently monitoring a group of intertidal oyster reefs to quantify sediment filtration and it's effect on water clarity, and how water quality impacts oyster's net metabolism by measuring their uptake of oxygen by a non-intrusive eddy-correlation technique. The ultimate goal is to determine conditions suitable for the successful restoration of oyster habitat.

Sediment dynamics along vegetated coastlines
The Virginia coastline is a diverse landscape of tidal marshes, lagoons, and barrier islands. The seafloor in these regions is comprised mainly of sand and soft muds, and the suspension and deposition of this material depends upon the interaction of waves, tidal currents and stratified flows with the local seafloor topography. We are currently developing an underwater laser-based particle image velocimetry instrument to investigate the impact that submerged and emergent vegetation has on flow dynamics at the sediment-water interface and the role it plays in suspension, transport and deposition of coastal sediments.

Flow and mass transport processes in coral reefs
Coral reefs are of great importance to the marine environment due to their tremendous productivity and immense diversity of marine organisms. Flow dynamics are vital to these reef communities because they control essential processes such as particle capture by benthic organisms, the uptake of dissolved nutrients, larval dispersal, as well as sediment deposition and removal. These hydrodynamic processes occur over many different scales, affecting both individual corals as well as whole reef systems. At small scales, water flow interacts with the morphology of coral to affect growth rates and control mass exchange, while at large scales, the extreme roughness of the topography influences reef scale circulation patterns and can also control exchanges with the open ocean. Motivated by the importance of hydrodynamics to both large and small scale ecological processes on coral reefs, we perform laboratory measurements in a wave-current water flume, as well as field studies within Panama, Hawaii, and the Red Sea.


Physical Hydrology (EVSC 3600)
Studies the physical principles governing the flow of water on and beneath the earth’s surface, including open channel hydraulics, ground water hydraulics, and dynamics of soil moisture.

Biomechanics of Organisms (EVSC 3060)
Explores interactions between biology and the fluid environment (air and water) within which organisms function. Examines such issues as animal locomotion, heat exchange, mass exchange, bio-acoustics, and bio-optics in air and water, as well as living at the interface between the two fluids.

Physical Oceanography (EVSC 5440)
Studies the physical properties, processes, and structure of the oceans; mass and energy budgets; methods of measurements; and the nature and theory of ocean currents, waves, and tides in the open sea, near shore and in estuaries.

Coastal Oceanography (EVSC 5060)
An interdisciplinary course which covers physical, biological, and chemical processes occurring along coastlines and within coastal ecosystems.

Hydrological Transport Processes (EVHY 5650)
Examines the transport of dissolved substances, and of sediment and particulate matter in terrestrial and aquatic environments.